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Here’s Why We Need to Support Boys With Natural Hair: 7th Grader Told to Cut Locs or Face School Discipline

By on Mar 8, 2016 | 2 comments

By all accounts, Isaiah Freeman is an exceptional student. The 13-year-old attends a private school in Virginia, gets good grades, plays sports, and wants to be a geologist when he grows up. So when Isaiah’s principal told the teen he had to cut his locs or get a referral to the office every single day, his parents were perplexed. You see, Isaiah’s been growing his locs since the third grade, and the entire time he’s been attending West End Christian School. But now that his hair has gotten longer, it’s a problem. School officials say the proposed discipline actions aren’t personal, but argue Isaiah’s locs violate the rules. “The rule in our handbook states that hair length is to be no longer than the middle of the neck, halfway below the ears, and not below the eyebrows,” the school’s principal Amy Griggs said. “Even from the beginning of the school year, Isaiah’s hair has become considerably longer,” she told the NY Daily News. “This has never been about his hairstyle, only the length.” Isaiah’s dad thinks it’s about something different, a lack of awareness. “I think it’s a form of not being culturally aware, a form of stereotyping,” Shawn Freeman said. To adhere to the rules on length, Isaiah’s been pulling his hair back into neat bun, but even that hasn’t made a difference. “They won’t give me a legitimate reason why this is an issue now,” his father said. Shawn says rather than cut his son’s hair, he’s looking for a new school for the bright young teen, who Principal Griggs admits is “exemplary.” While we often hear about girls of color being picked on or singled out because of their hair, we rarely talk about boys (I wrote about it here). But here’s the thing, boys need their natural hair affirmed too, especially if they choose to wear it in any other style besides keeping it cut low. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of books or resources that talk about the beauty of boys’ hair, which leads to policies, like the one at Isaiah’s school, that treat their hair like it’s an after thought or something that can and should be easily changed. Has your #BrownBoyGenius experienced hair issues at school? How did you handle it?  Related Post #VestorVote? EVERY Parent of a Brown Boy Needs to ... Michigan’s Top Swimmer, Tabahn Afrik, Breaks Rec... The Skin They’re In: How Does Your Brown Boy... Here Are 3 Books We’re Loving Right...

Stand With Ahmed By Encouraging Your BrownBoyGenius to Love Science

By on Sep 17, 2015 | 0 comments

By now you’ve probably heard about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old Texas teen who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school to show his engineering teacher. Unfortunately for the inquisitive teen, one of his teachers overreacted (probably because he’s brown and his name is Ahmed) and handed his invention over to the police because she said it looked like a bomb. That’s when Ahmed’s horrible ordeal began. According to the teen, he was interrogated, without his parents, for over an hour before being taken into handcuffs and arrested for bringing a “hoax bomb” to school. While Ahmed told anybody who would listen that his contraption was a clock, not a bomb, they still took him in. Thankfully for Ahmed, the Dallas Morning News got ahold of his story and it immediately blew up on social media. Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great. — President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015 Last thing – you did good, internet. You put the smile back on his face. pic.twitter.com/eFdLuyd5rA — Hend (@LibyaLiberty) September 16, 2015 Everybody from President Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg chimed in to offer their support for Ahmed, and the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed began trending worldwide. Ahmed’s story is a sad reminder of the prejudice our sons may encounter when they exhibit a love of science, or anything that isn’t stereotypical. Still, we can’t let their curiosity get extinguished before it can take hold and flourish. While it’s disheartening Ahmed was arrested for trying to impress his teacher, the end result was awesome–he’s headed to the White House, he’ll get to hang out with tech leaders like Zuckerberg, and his dream school, MIT, has invited him to Boston for a tour. Ahmed will probably be just fine, but so many of our boys are getting left out of STEM opportunities…and we can’t afford to let that happen. Recently, I read a New York Times article about people who’ve ditched their low-paying jobs by enrolling in a coding bootcamp and then getting a much higher paying gig. One guy went from making $20,000 to $100,000 as a programmer in just three months. Another, a 24 year old woman, enrolled in an 24-week course and secured a $80,000 job. While most of our kids LOVE technology and can hardly function without some kind of device in their hands , encouraging them to learn how to actually build the things they love playing with will not only give them a deeper understanding of science, but it may also set them up for a lucrative career in the future. Need help getting started? Here are 3 ways you can encourage a love of science in your #BrownBoyGenius Let him play Minecraft A photo posted by Brown Boy Genius (@brownboygenius) on Mar 28, 2015 at 4:23pm PDT I admit, I didn’t understand why Le Kid LOVED Minecraft so much when he first started playing it, and I even thought about cutting down his ‘crafting time. But after doing a little research and seeing how his creativity has flourished after playing the game, I relaxed. Aside from introducing kids to the Earth’s minerals, Minecraft teaches them critical thinking, problem solving, and planning skills. It also can be used to teach math, history, and science. Encourage him to Tynker around Tynker is a fun, web-based program that teaches kids how to code. In Tynker, kids can make games, animations, stories and more using the site’s easy drag and drop visual programming. While it won’t teach your BrownBoyGenius how to build the next blockbuster app, it will introduce him to the world of programming that may serve him well down the line. (btw: sign up for a free hour of code, here) Visit science museums…often! I don’t know about you, but Le Kid and I have spent a lot of time in museums, especially when we homeschooled. Over the summer we visited two AMAZING museums–the California Academy of Sciences + the Exploratorium–and had a wonderful time exploring several different types of sciences. Sure letting your kid play with coding apps and games is fun, but nothing really compares to hands-on activities that stoke their love of science. How do you encourage your BrownBoyGenius to love science? Tell us in the comments below! Related Post This Brilliant 11-Year-Old Ferguson Resident Is th... Floyd Mayweather Can’t Read Well, But Neither Ca... How Do You Encourage Your #BrownBoyGenius to Read? #VestorVote? EVERY Parent of a Brown Boy Needs to...

Help Your Child Beat the ‘Summer Slide’ With UMIGO’s FREE Interactive Math Activities

By on Jun 28, 2015 | 0 comments

I don’t know about your BrownBoyGenius, but Le Kid hates worksheets. Back when we were homeschooling, anytime I approached him with a math or English worksheet he would immediately rebel. After having to battle over worksheets almost daily, I decided I needed to figure out what actually worked for him. And like so many other kids, that meant digital content. Because my son loves tech gadgets—the iPad, Xbox, and lately my laptop—I’m always on the hunt for web-based educational apps and websites that will keep him entertained and help him brush up on new skills. UMIGO (pronounce “you me go”) is a vibrant site full of short “appisodes” and activities that’ll help your genius fortify his math skills. Each lesson helps kids improve their effective reasoning and problem solving abilities in such a fun and engaging way they won’t even know they’re learning. So far, UMIGO, which is short for “you make it go,” is only geared toward children in first and second grade. Although Le Kid is heading to the fourth grade in the fall, I still sat down with him to have him assess the site. His verdict? “It’s fun!” The colorful website was super easy to navigate, and included both visual clues like the big green GO button and sound clues to help kids find their way around each lesson. UMIGO covers topics like skip counting, measurement, addition, fractions, and greater than/less than through catchy songs (that will get stuck in your head, don’t say I didn’t warn you), and interactive quizzes. By the way, if your kid does enjoy worksheets (uh, I did growing up), UMIGO also has downloadable handouts and activities you and your child can work on offline as well. And here’s an added bonus: each lesson is aligned to Common Core standards, so you know it’s legit! While Le Kid and I really liked trying out UMIGO (and he even got up and danced to the “Pizza Party” song on fractions), my one gripe is that the lessons and activities aren’t extended to all elementary levels. It would be cool to use something like UMIGO’s appisodes and songs to help kids with multiplication and division, something Le Kid is still trying to master, or higher-level math. But hopefully, that’s in the works. On June 19, UMIGO kicked off the Summer of UMIGO, which aims to help kids beat the dreaded “summer slide” where they either forget a lot of what they learned during the school year, or just fall behind. UMIGO has also partnered with the National Summer Learning Association, which hopes to reach 700,000 (!!) kids this summer through both online and in-person learning events (find one near you). Overall, both Le Kid and I enjoyed UMIGO and I think it’s another great tool to help your BrownBoyGenius extend his learning this summer. And thanks to partial funding by the US Department of Education, UMIGO is also FREE to use! You can’t beat that! Have you used UMIGO? Share your thoughts below!  p.s.: You can find UMIGO on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Disclosure: This post was made possible by support from UMIGO. However, all opinions are my own. Related Post Floyd Mayweather Can’t Read Well, But Neither Ca... Clap For Him: This Teen Was Accepted to All 8 Ivy ... Here Are 3 Books We’re Loving Right Now How Do You Encourage Your #BrownBoyGenius to...

How Do You Encourage Your #BrownBoyGenius to Read?

By on Apr 20, 2015 | 2 comments

Let’s face it, some boys just don’t like to read. As a former English teacher and current writer, I dreamed of my son following my footsteps and falling in love with the written word, but when I told me he hated to read I felt like I failed as a parent. I mean, my child hates to read? As if! After getting over my initial shock, I listened to what my son was actually saying. He hated to read because it was hard for him (and so many other boys), but he still loved hearing stories. So I read, and read, and read and kept on buying books I thought might interest him until one day he uttered the words that made me super happy: I’m a reader!  Recently I saw a tweet about a program that encourages boys to fall in love with reading by putting in reading nooks in barbershops around New York City. It sounded pretty awesome, so I reached out to the founder of Barbershop Books for my TakePart column. Alvin Irby, a former elementary school teacher and current grad student, shared the inspiration for Barbershop Books and where he hopes to take the program in the future. Irby says the idea came to him after he watched one of his first grade students stare aimlessly out of a barbershop window while he waited for a trim. “I wished I had a book I could give him so he could practice his reading,” Irby remembers, explaining that the young man also needed to improve his literacy skills, a challenge that plagues far too many boys. Read the entire article on the TakePart site. Irby initially funded Barbershop Books out of his own pocket, but he recently won a $5000 grant for the program from the Fels Public Policy Challenge Competition. He also relies on donations. The reading stations are currently housed in six shops spread across Harlem and Brooklyn, but Irby hopes to expand to 25 by the end of the year. Encouraging reading and helping our boys develop competent literacy skills is integral to their success. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading breaks down why making sure boys are proficient by the 3rd grade is so important. Mastering reading by the end of third grade is essential for school success since students begin to transition at that point from learning to read to reading to learn. Those who do not hit the proficiency mark by then are four times more likely to drop out of high school, research shows. Among those who do not read well, the dropout rates are twice as high for African-American and Hispanic students as they are for white students. White male students are three times more likely to be reading proficiently in the fourth grade than their African-American peers and more than twice as likely as Hispanic boys, according to a data analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Center.  The statistics are even more startling for children of color from low-income families, with just 10 percent of the African-American boys and 14 percent of Hispanic boys reading proficiently, compared to 25 percent for their white peers. So how can we encourage boys of color to fall in love with reading? According to Irby, it’s all about access and finding books they’ll love. “If children have easy access to books, they’re much more likely to read for fun. If the books are interesting and engaging, they’re more likely to keep reading and read again. The more children read for fun, the better they become at reading,” he said. How do you encourage your BrownBoyGenius to love reading? Share your tips in the comments section!  Related Post For Marshawn Lynch & Brown Boys Who Dare to C... From Jail to Interviewing the President, See Why T... Here’s Why We Need to Support Boys With Natu... No, Shaming Kids In Public Won’t Make Them...

3 Reasons to Participate in #MuseumWeek

By on Mar 23, 2015 | 0 comments

One of the funniest moments with my dad happened in a museum. One Saturday he took my brother and I to the National History Museum here in L.A., and as we wandered around, my dad asked us to snap a picture of him. My dad is an interesting guy and he wanted a super interesting picture, so he did something you’re never ever supposed to do: jump into the exhibit! That day my dad hopped over the railing and into the mammoth exhibit to pose for the picture…until the alarm went off. Then, he promptly jumped out and dashed into the hallway until it stopped ringing. His picture? A blur…but it was an awesome blur! And it’s also a memory that’s stuck with me for my entire life. I spent a large part of my childhood visiting museums, and so far Le Kid has as well. On any given weekend we’re hanging out at one of L.A.’s many museums, so I was geeked to find out there’s an entire week set aside to encourage people to explore these important institutions. Today marks the beginning of #MuseumWeek, an international effort to get people into museums. More than 2,000 institutions from all over the globe are participating in the effort to spread the word about how wonderful and important museums are to the world. In honor of #MuseumWeek Le Kid and I will be heading down to the San Diego Natural History Museum to check out their collection, and we think you should participate too. Here’s why. Museums are FUN Museums aren’t stuffy, boring affairs. While you should certainly steer clear of jumping into an exhibit like my dad, most museums have hands-on programs for kids that are not only fun, but are also good for the brain. From arts and crafts, to building robotics and digging for dinosaur bones, a trip to a museum is the perfect way to spend the day. Museums teach us about the world I don’t know about you, but I LOVE to travel. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to London, Paris, and Johannesburg, and I want to see so much more. Unfortunately, my budget doesn’t always support my wanderlust. So, when I’m feeling the itch to hit the road, I turn to museums to experience the world’s cultures, religions, and people until I can travel again. If you want to go abroad, but just can’t afford it right now, head to a museum and immerse yourself in another country’s customs instead. Museums make history come alive Visiting museums helps history come alive—and no I’m not talking about the movie. Like most children, Le Kid LOVES dinosaurs. He loves playing with dino toys, watching dino docs, and drawing pictures of dinos. But you know what made him want to be a paleontologist? Seeing actual dinosaur fossils and speaking to scientists at the National History Museum of L.A. Hanging out a museum helps people see exactly what they learned about in books or school, and you know what? The real thing is usually way more awesome. For me, seeing artifacts from Ancient Egypt and the Kingdom of Nubia at the British Museum completely blew me away. What’s your favorite museum? Will you be participating in #MuseumWeek? BTW: be sure to follow BrownBoyGenius on Instagram to see our pics from #MuseumWeek. Related Post 7 Picture Books to Read With Little Brown Boys How Do You Encourage Your #BrownBoyGenius to Read? Clap For Him: This Teen Was Accepted to All 8 Ivy ... For Marshawn Lynch & Brown Boys Who Dare to...

Must Watch: This Sesame Street ‘House of Cards’ Parody is AWESOME

By on Feb 25, 2015 | 0 comments

Frank Underwood got a makeover. The iconic, and shrewd, lead of Netflix’s hit drama House of Cards made his way to Sesame Street, and it’s downright awesome. Just days before Netflix launches the third season of its highly-anticipated political drama, the folks over at Sesame Street decided to retell the Three Little Pigs through a spot-on parody of House of Cards. In this version, the wolf takes on Underwood’s Southern drawl and cunning personality to retell the classic story and teach kids about math. What could be more awesome than that? Take a look. Are you a House of Cards fan? What did you think of Sesame Street’s take? Related Post This Teen Built a Million-Dollar Tech Company, But... This 12-Year-Old COLLEGE SOPHOMORE Says Studying E... Here’s What Happens When You Take a 9-Year-O... Leland Melvin Has the BEST NASA Photo Ever, But...